Police Members and their Oath of Office

Written by Harold McNeill on December 12th, 2015. Posted in Police Notebook, Tim Hortons Morning Posts


Oath of Office

Not only did these photo ops take place on the opposite sides of Canada, the police recruits being sworn in will be entering two very different policing worlds. Their employment adventure begins with the Oath of Office they have just swore or affirmed and from that first step, their careers will diverge in a significant way that can be traced to that Oath. The photographs actually provide a rather good visual example of that difference.

Photo Left (Web Source) RCMP Associate Commander Brian Brennan, personally welcomed officer Peter Wallace into the ranks of the RCMP in Nova Scotia, presenting him with his badge during a special swearing-in ceremony.

Photo Right (Web source) Chief Frank Eisner, right, shakes hands with Casey Jones, left, and Matthew King during a ceremony to welcome the two new constables to the Victoria Police Department.   (Photograph Adrian Lam, Times Colonist)

Background

As outlined in a related article, Dispensary Raids Galore!, those ‘discretionary’ raids and arrests at marihuana outlets in Nanaimo, Mission and Sechelt will waste an impressive amount of police and court time and will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in cases where the RCMP will eventually walk away empty handed.

It is almost certain the charges will not survive beyond 2016 and as mentioned in the earlier post, will again bring the RCMP and general administration of justice into disrepute. Heaven knows the RCMP have enough administrative scandals to deal with without creating more bad press by conducting heavy handed, senseless raids.

I do not envy the front line officers ordered to carry out those raids and arrest otherwise innocent citizens, but did theyOak Bay Police Chief Mark Fisher have a choice? If they had been with a Municipal or City force, perhaps, but in the RCMP, probably not. For that matter, did the Superintendent in charge and who ordered the raids have a choice? Probably not.

An historical example of a similar dilemma comes from the very force from which Superintendent Fisher (the man who ordered the raids) recently retired as Chief Constable (photo right). The Oak Bay incident occurred decades back when then Chief John Green, ordered his men to arrest a number of teachers who were walking a peaceful picket line outside the Oak Bay High School on Cranmore Road while the teachers were in a protracted battle with the Government of the day.

The Oak Bay members knew full well the Chief’s thinking on the application of the law was flawed and his heavy-handed approach could not be supported in principle or in court. Although members had experienced his merciless tirades over the years, the members stood up to him and respectfully refused to carry out the order. The Chief 461011bcaf5b5e723e897c33f049f169Constable was left storming and threatening disciplinary action as only an ex-Regimental Sergeant Major from World War II, could do. (1)

Photo (Archives): Chief John Green (Centre) and his men in 1966.  I don’t think those who refused to carry out his order were yet on the job, so those men were likely fairly junior at the time as was yours truly who is standing in the second row, far right.

Days, then weeks, passed by as the strike continued with peaceful protests, picket lines and one large multi-union protest parade along Government Street to the Legislature. The Oak Bay members never heard another peep from the Chief on their refusing his order to arrest as the Chief no doubt learned he would not only lose face after losing the disciplinary battle, he might very well lose his job.

Given Oak Bay officers (as with most police in Canada) as with all police forces back in those days operated with a highly militarized command structure and many senior officers were ex-military, those who challenged the order were to be commended for holding true to their Oath of Office rather than to a momentary whim of a senior officer. This brings us back to the case at hand.  Did either Superintendent Fisher or the members have a choice? This brings us back to the Oath of Office.

I think the Superintendent might have unless he was bound by an order coming from a higher authority, perhaps even the Office of the Commissioner of the RCMP.  In Mark Fisher’s time as Chief Constable, he was well respected Oak Bay and must have come to understand the differences between the two types of force (RCMP and Municipal). While in Oak Bay, I cannot imagine that with the marihuana laws about to expire, he would have ordered a marihuana shop in that Municipality to be raided and the employees arrested without a clear and present danger to the public.

Having worked with and socialized with many RCMP members over the years, it was my experience they were good men and women, but the challenge they faced on a daily basis, was working in a system that was extremely ‘rank’ conscience.  Several times the RCMP members would defer certain aspects of an investigation to their Municipal counterparts if what needed to be done was something that required approval from an officer at a much higher level, particularly at the Provincial or Federal level. Examples would include, surreptitious entries and crossing the US border.

It was my observation the officers with whom I worked were generally loath to step out of line by challenging an order or by acting on their own initiative when, when approval of a higher ranking authority was deemed necessary, but would be hard to get. To outright disobey was largely unthinkable, no matter the circumstance. Those who became more vigorous in their protests were soon relegated to the back waters, their careers effectively ended. Many of the men and women who leave the RCMP in favour of a City or Municipal force do so because of union protection and greater freedom to carry out their duties without being unduly restricted by the rank structure. Perhaps the Oath of Office would be a good starting point in the search for understanding the differences between RCMP and Municipal and City Police Officers.

Police Members and their Oath of Office

While discipline and a willingness to follow orders is implicit in any paramilitary organization, a police officers primary responsibility is to serve and protect the citizens of his or her community and the country in general. The essence of that commitment traces back to Sir Robert Peel and the Peelian Principles he developed in order to define an ethical police force. This short quote is taken from a larger article on the Peelian Principles:

“The approach expressed in the principles is commonly known as policing by consent in the United Kingdom and other countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.[1][2][3][4]  In this model of policing – police officers are regarded as citizens in uniform. They exercise their powers to police their fellow citizens with the implicit consent of those fellow citizens. “Policing by consent” indicates that the legitimacy of policing in the eyes of the public is based upon a general consensus of support that follows from transparency about their powers, their integrity in exercising those powers and their accountability for doing so.[5]  

While the Oaths taken by Municipal and RCMP officers are similar in some respects, a significant difference emerges when comparing the oaths to the ideals expressed in the Peelian Principles:

 Municipal Officers swear serve and protect people and their property, the ideal embodied in the Peelian Principles: “I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and prevent all offences against the persons and properties of Her Majesty’s subjects; and, I will, faithfully, honestly and impartially perform my duties as a Police Officer.”

RCMP Officers direct their oath towards the RCMP Act and the Chain of Command: “I will faithfully, diligently and impartially execute and perform the duties required of me as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and will well and truly obey and perform all lawful orders and instructions that I receive…”  There is no reference what-so-ever to the Peelian Principles.

This difference between these Oaths of Office is not a trifling matter and might well explain a general trend within the RCMP to extend extreme deference to those higher in the chain of command be they a commissioned or non-commissioned officer. The Commissioner of the RCMP is, of course, the final authority in the Chain of Command , just as is the Chief in a Municipal Force. My experience suggests the RCMP Commissioner is a demigod as are his immediate subordinates above the rank of Superintendent.  To openly challenge the order of a senior officer at the Provincial or Federal level is not punishable by death, but it certainly implies the death of ones career in the RCMP. There have been plenty examples of this sprinkled along the path over the past several decades.

Can this at least partially account for what happened in Nanaimo, Sechelt and Mission?  I don’t know, but I certainly think it is a possibility.   Listed in the footer is the full text of the Oaths taken by Municipal and RCMP police members on joining their respective forces.

Harold McNeill
Detective Sergeant (Retired)
Oak Bay Police Department

Municipal Police Officer Oath of Office in British Columbia

To each of these questions, the response is: “I do so swear.”

I do [swear/solemnly affirm] that:

I will, be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors;

I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and prevent all offences against the persons and properties of Her Majesty’s subjects;

I will, faithfully, honestly and impartially perform my duties as a Police Officer.

RCMP Officer Federal Oath

Note: In this oath, other than a solemn affirmation, add: So help me (Name of Deity)).

Oath of Allegiance: I do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors.

Oath of Office: “I swear that I will faithfully, diligently and impartially execute and perform the duties required of  me as a member of the Royal  Canadian Mounted Police, and will well and truly obey and perform all lawful orders and instructions that I receive  as such, without fear, favour or affection of or toward any  person.”

Oath of Secrecy: “I do swear that I will not, without due authority, disclose or make known to any person not legally entitled to it any knowledge or information obtained by me in the course of my duties under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.

It is evident that significant portions of the two oaths place an entirely different focus on how members are expected to respond in carrying out their duties to the general public.  Does this account for the total difference between the two groups of police officers? Probably not, but I am thankful I joined a Municipal force rather than the RCMP, as I would not likely have lasted all that long in the RCMP.  More is spoken to this in the personal background provide in the following link below.

Harold McNeill
Retired Detective Sergeant
Oak Bay Police Department

Link here to:  Dispensary Raids Galore (the first part of this editorial)

Link here to RCMP Commissioner on the Wrong Track

Link here to Oversight of Police and Security Service

(1) Another lesser example of the manner in which the Chief Constable could be successfully confronted is written in the Post: Tickets, Tickets, Tickets. It is unlikely an RCMP Constable would take a chance by confronting a Superintendent in that manner.

(2) While on investigation, Conspiracy to Rob the BC Ferry Terminal as Swartz Bay), was one small example,

 

(617)

(Visited 877 times, 1 visits today)

Trackback from your site.

Leave a comment

 

Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

  • McNeill Life Stories Index to Police Notebook - McNeill Life Stories

    February 16, 2020 |

    […] Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation. Part II, Comparing police cultures and implementing change Part III, The past as a guide to the future Part IV The integration of police services […]

  • Harold McNeill

    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

    I’ve copied just one sentence from Mulligan’s longer discussion, “And I think people don’t like the idea that somebody who’s, for example, was drunk and ran into you and you become a quadriplegic is going to be treated exactly the same way you would in terms of getting benefits (go to minute 00:15:26 to see his full comment)

    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

  • McNeill Life Stories Index to Police Notebook - McNeill Life Stories

    January 5, 2020 |

    […] 28. The past as a guide to the future (Part III): Over the past 60 years, many activities the police once performed as a natural part of their daily duty, eventually became incompatible with achieving their basic goals. What happened? (August 2019) […]

  • McNeill Life Stories Why I stand with science? - McNeill Life Stories

    November 11, 2019 |

    […] During the Ice Age, the Earth’s average temperature was about 12 degrees Fahrenheit colder than it is today. That was enough to keep snow from melting during the summers in northern regions. As snow fell on the snow, glaciers formed. (NASA Earth Observatory) […]

  • McNeill Life Stories How to Game an Election - McNeill Life Stories

    September 18, 2019 |

    […] The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the message will be taken as a statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating. (Link here to background on the SNC Lavalin matter) […]